Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Comics: The Green Lantern Geoff Johns Finale

It was the end of an era.

I've very rarely seen the in-book fanfare of farewells that were present in Green Lantern #20, the last issue written by master scribe Geoff Johns.  Interspersed in the narrative were people inside and outside of the comic book industry making small testimonials to Johns epic 9 years with Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of sector 2814.

I've commented in the past on how Johns innovation of the character and the universe made this book the true flagship of the DCU.  His ingenious weaving of old story lines and new innovations wove an amazingly colorful tapestry of cosmic adventure.  But I would like to focus on that final issue.

Johns' Green Lantern had a habit of doing epic-sized stories while planting the seeds of another future epic in the narrative.  During the dire and violent Rise of the Third Army, Johns introduced a new character called Volthoom, the First Lantern.  To introduce his back story, Johns goes back to the oldest legend of the Oans.

The rebel Krona opened a window to the dawn of creation to watch the "Hand of God" create everything.  But instead a human named Volthoom arrives in a space suit.  What are his origins?  How did he get there?  Why is he wearing something that looks like an American flag?  These questions are never answered.  All we know is that Volthoom acts like a vampire on the emotional spectrum and this allows him to manipulate reality and re-write history.

The build up to the finale mostly involved character pieces where Volthoom entered into the main characters' minds and saw what their greatest fears, hopes, loves, and hatreds were.  He then drove them to feel all of these as deeply as he could so that he could feed off of their energies.  These issues proved to be very intriguing glimpses into the psyches of our heroes, but they felt a bit repetitive.

I would say that is the biggest problem with the issue: it is too short.  I do not mean that this particular issue is short.  In fact, it is over long at 64- pages, which is nearly 3-times the size of an average comic. But reading it, I had the same feeling I had when I watched the finale to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The story felt like it was condensed to fit everything in rather than being let out to breathe, making the conclusion more satisfying.  I feel like another 3 months or so would have opened up a richer conclusion.

But having said that, Johns fills his finale with colossal action and powerful character moments.  When the story begins, both Hal Jordan and his eternal foil Sinestro are at their lowest, for reasons I will not spoil here.  Both, at the beginning are Green Lanterns, but both embrace other corps for various reasons. What follows is both exhilarating and tragic.  And that is the way it should be.  There should be a cost, a heavy cost, to fighting the good fight or the victory earned will not feel as valuable.  It also makes the joy that arises out of the sadness all the sweeter.

Johns also wisely ties together loose ends from all of his major epics in his Green Lantern run, like a composer weaving earlier movements and motifs into a grand guignol.  It reminded me so much of what James Robinson did in his conclusion to the incomparable Starman.  Each callback is a thrill and a delight.  And there is a moment where Sinestro confronts a long-time Green Lantern villain that has the trademark "I didn't see that coming but should have" feel to it.  

My favorite moment (MILD SPOILER THIS PARAGRAPH), by far, is between Hal and Sinestro.  In a way, this series has always been about the 2 of them.  Way back in the series, Hal was bringing Sinestro to his execution (things, obviously, did not go as planned).  Before they were attacked, Hal wanted to ask Sinestro a question.  He never got the chance.  That dangling mystery has been a key thread to the whole dynamic between these two.  In the end, Hal finally gets to ask it of Sinestro: "Were we ever friends?"  Sinestros answer is so perfect, so powerful, and so devastating that it makes me want to re-read the entire series once again.

The coda to the story involves the Toris, the keeper of the Book of Oa in the far future, telling a new Green Lantern about the fates of all the main characters.  This had the feeling of the epilogue to the Harry Potter series, which splits fans down the middle.  I personally, very much enjoyed the Green Lantern epilogue.  Johns understands that when you spend so many years with these characters, saying goodbye is difficult.  Like parting with close friends, above all you want to know that they are going to be okay.  Johns lays out the path of all the survivors of this epic finale in a way that is logically consistent and emotionally cathartic.

This is also the best work I've seen Doug Manke do as artist, and that is saying a lot.  I was not excited when he originally took over, but he has time and again proven me wrong.  There are nice moments drawn by Green Lantern Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver and some by Ivan Reis.  All of it flows nicely to capture the wild and imaginative action and heartbreaking drama.

I want to end this review with a simple thank you to Mr. Geoff Johns.  I doubt that you will ever read this, but I just wanted to say that reading your work on Green Lantern has given me years of wonder and joy.  Your stories will stay with me.  

Thank you for filling my world with Green Lantern's Light.

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